There are so many things to love about Ireland—emerald landscapes, brooding castles, craggy coastlines, tidy villages, cozy pubs, and, of course, beer. But two of the main reasons Ireland tops many people’s favorite-destinations list is that it’s both welcoming and affordable. Before you decide to head back for another dose of Irish cheer, here are seven other affordable getaways that will satisfy both your wanderlust and your wallet.
If you don’t think the countryside could be any greener or the brogues any thicker than in Ireland, you haven’t been to Wales. Located just across St. George’s Channel, this charming—some might say quirky—country in the United Kingdom is a must-visit for travelers enamored with spots like Ireland’s Lakes of Killarney and the Dingle Peninsula. You’ll find gorgeous scenery (and sheep, almost 10 million of them) all over Wales, but head to the northwest to stay in cozy inns and experience Snowdonia National Park, the fantastical architecture of Portmeirion, the castles in and around Conwy, and the town with the longest name in the world: Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
Adore bagpipers and fiddlers? This Canadian maritime province has them—along with the “kitchen party,” a festive transatlantic version of the céilidh (Celtic party), courtesy of its early Irish and Scottish settlers. Nova Scotia’s Gaelic heart is easternmost Cape Breton Island, where folk songs and dance are a rich tradition. And seafood lovers will be in heaven: In addition to a Lobster Trail and a Chowder Trail, you’ll find oysters, mussels, clams, and fresh-caught halibut. Add in a craft beer scene (including a Beer Bus tour in Halifax that visits city breweries and pubs), North America’s first single-malt whisky distillery, and a favorable U.S./Canada exchange rate that means a 25-percent discount, and there’s plenty to love here.
Plitvice Lakes National Park, Croatia
Did your favorite experiences in Ireland involve its scenic lakes and valleys? If so, consider a trip to this 116-square-mile forest reserve in central Croatia. The country’s oldest and largest national park is home to 16 interconnected lakes that flow from one to the other via a series of cascades and waterfalls—pretty doesn’t even begin to describe it. The park has seven auto routes, four hiking trails, and budget-friendly hotels and campsites. And it’s not far from Croatia’s Adriatic coast, so you can also spend time in picturesque cities such as Rovinj, Pula, Zadar, and Split.
Hudson Valley, NY
Lots of people love Ireland’s historic castles and mansions, and if you’re one of them, you can get your fix domestically in this bucolic region located along the Hudson River about 60-90 minutes north of New York City. There are more than half a dozen architectural masterpieces to tour, including Lyndhurst Mansion in Tarrytown (a circa-1838 Gothic Revival gem with 19 rooms on display), Hyde Park (the 200-acre estate that’s home to the 54-room neoclassical Beaux-Arts Vanderbilt Mansion, as well as Springwood, the home of Franklin D. Roosevelt), Olana in Hudson (designed in 1872 by 19th-century landscape artist Frederic Church and architect Calvert Vaux in a Victorian-meets-Persian style), and Bannerman Castle (located on an island in the Hudson River and accessible via kayak tour). You can even stay in a castle (Castle Hotel & Spa in Tarrytown and Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz), but there are also lots of affordable inns and B&Bs to book.
The Scottish Highlands
If whiskey’s your thing, there’s no better place than the Highlands—just remember that here, it’s single-malt whisky (without the “e”). And while you might be tempted to spend your time visiting some of the 120 single-malt distilleries, this region in Northwest Scotland has it all: castles (don’t miss Eilean Donan on the way to the Isle of Skye), lakes (including legendary Loch Ness), mountains (the tallest, Ben Nevis, is located near Fort William), golf (30 courses), and all the historic character and impossible-to-resist (and sometimes decipher) accents your heart desires.
One of America’s grandest castles—The Biltmore, a 250-room French Renaissance chateau constructed in 1895 by George Vanderbilt—can be found in this city in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. Take a self-guided tour of the mansion and gardens before discovering the charms of this vibrant, artsy, and romantic city and its beautiful natural surroundings. Shop for handmade crafts, join the Friday night Drum Circle, tour Asheville’s haunted places, hike amid waterfalls in Pisgah National Forest, fish for mountain trout, or drive the Blue Ridge Parkway (it’s especially gorgeous in autumn).
Portland and the Willamette Valley, OR
Dubliners love their beer—and so do Portlanders. This Oregon city has more breweries than any other in the U.S., making it a terrific spot to enjoy the spirited camaraderie that beer tasting inevitably inspires. And if wine is your preference, vineyards in the nearby Willamette Valley grow some the country’s best pinot noirs. Beyond all that, Portland is green (both visually and environmentally) and active (there are dozens of bike trails), has a thriving indie music scene, and boasts Powell’s City of Books, one of the world’s largest book stores. So grab that copy of The Dubliners you’ve been meaning to read, order a red ale, and get to know PDX.